Fess Parker, Star Of 'Davy Crockett,' Remembered

Fess Parker, the start of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, in the 1950s and '60s has died. He was 85. He later became a developer along California's central coast and grew grapes for prize-winning wines.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

One upon a time, about half a century ago, thousands of American boys and girls were buying and wearing coonskin caps. They did it so they could be like Davy Crockett, and like the actor who played him, Fess Parker.

(Soundbite of song, "The Ballad of Davy Crockett")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, greenest state in the land of the free. Raised in the woods so he knew every tree, killed him a bear when he was only three. Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Fess Parker died today. He played the Tennessee frontiersman in the 1950s Disney TV show that restored Davy Crockett to prominence as a national hero: a hunter-politician who always had his trusty rifle, Old Betsy, at his side.

Mr. PARKER: Said Old Betsy will reach.

(Soundbite of gunshots)

SIEGEL: The show was a huge hit, especially with kids. The theme song made it to number one in 1955, and the show touched off a merchandising powder keg to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. And for a while, Davy Crockett coonskin caps and rifles and lunchboxes were everywhere.

Parker went on to play the dad in "Old Yeller," and he put on the cap again a few years later to play Daniel Boone on television.

BLOCK: In later years, Parker opened a family winery and vineyards in California. Fess Parker was 85. His family says he died of natural causes.

(Soundbite of song, "The Ballad of Davy Crockett")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Fought single-handed through the Injun war, till the Creeks was whipped and peace was in store. And while he was handling this risky chore, made himself a legend forever more. Davy, Davy Crockett, the man who don't know fear.

He went off to Congress and served a spell, fixing up the government and laws as well. Took over Washington, so I heard tell, and patched up the crack in the Liberty Bell. Davy, Davy Crockett, seeing his duty clear.

When he come home, his politicking was done, why the Western march had just begun. So, he packed his gear and his trusty gun, and let out a-grinning to follow the sun. Davy, Davy Crockett, leading the pioneer.

BLOCK: This is NPR.

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